Steven Hayes, the notorious killer who sits on death row for the 2007 slayings of a Cheshire woman and her two daughters, wants to waive his appeals and proceed to his execution, a path that serial killer Michael Ross took before being put to death in 2005.
In a letter to the Courant, Hayes, 49, said he is the subject of "cruel and unusual punishment" by prison staff at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, treatment he claims has "been escalating" since March 2012.
"I was willing to live with the intense grief from my past actions, and I still am willing," Hayes wrote in the letter, dated Sept. 29, 2012. "However, I cannot live with the intense tourcher (sic), torment, harassment, and the resulting psychological trauma dished out by the Dept. of Corr. staff here at Northern. I was sentenced to death, not sentenced to tourcher (sic) and punitive treatment until death."
Hayes said he would be making "a formal announcement" about his decision to go to "the death chamber" during "the 2nd week of October," but he did not say how he would announce it.
Michael Courtney, head of the state public defenders office's capital defense unit, which is handling Hayes' appeal, declined to discuss any recent discussions he and other attorneys have had with Hayes.
"It's not uncommon for death-row inmates who are held in isolation with little or no connection to the outside world or independent mental-health treatment to deteriorate to the point of considering volunteering for execution," Courtney said.
In Connecticut, the appeals process involves an automatic sentence review by the state Supreme Court, so Hayes' decision would not affect that. If the appeal is unsuccessful, Hayes could then forgo the usual progression of state habeas corpus motions and federal appeals that occur before a convict is put to death.
With those appeals in place, legal experts have said, it could easily be 20 years or longer before Hayes is executed.
What Hayes wrote in the Sept. 29 letter conflicts with what he told The Courant earlier this year. In a prison interview, Hayes said he promised one of his defense attorneys, Thomas J. Ullmann, that he would not waive his appeals and seek execution.
Ullmann confirmed the conversation, telling The Courant in July: "He has made a commitment to me that he will not pull a Michael Ross."
Ross decided to waive his appeals in 2004 and, after a protracted legal battle, died by lethal injection in May 2005. Ross was the first person executed in Connecticut since 1960. He had spent 18 years on death row.
Word of Hayes' decision to seek execution comes while questions loom about whether those on death row should still face execution in light of the repeal last April of the death penalty.
Though state legislators abolished capital punishment for future offenses, Hayes and the other nine men on death row and those with pending death-eligible cases still face execution. The state Supreme Court has agreed to consider the constitutionality of the death penalty for the condemned inmates in light of the repeal. Those arguments will be made at a later date.
Hayes could not be reached for comment Thursday. Brian Garnett, a Department of Correction spokesman, said a disciplinary report resulted in Hayes' losing prison visits for 30 days.
When asked about Hayes' claims, Garnett said, "The Department of Correction provides for safe, secure and humane supervision of the offenders in our custody."
Hayes raped and strangled Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit. Their daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, died of smoke inhalation after they were doused with gasoline and the house was set on fire. William Petit managed to escape.
Both Hayes and Komisarjevsky, 32, were convicted and sentenced to death for the killings in widely publicized trials.
During jury selection at Hayes' trial, prison officials found him unconscious in his cell. His attorneys said Hayes tried to overdose on prescription medication.
In trial testimony, Hayes told officials he had tried to kill himself numerous times by slashing his wrists, crashing a car into a wall and tying clothes around his neck. He told The Courant during the prison interview that an elaborate confession he made in letters about killing 17 women was another bid to kill himself.
Hayes explained that by writing from prison about the bogus killing spree, he hoped that authorities would seize his letters and notify police. His plan was to trade information for food — he wanted police to buy his story and grant his request for soda, a pepperoni pizza and a dozen oysters with hot sauce.
He is deathly allergic to oysters.
"I planned to eat them and have them find me dead in my cell the next morning," Hayes told The Courant.